New Year’s resolution time is fast approaching, and for some people that means resolving to step up their giving to overseas charities, for others becoming first-time donors. Indeed, many philanthropically minded Americans may feel especially motivated this year by the World Giving Index 2010, which showed the U.S. tied for fifth place in terms of being charitable.

Charities Aid Foundation America (CAFAmerica), which provides charitable financial services to individuals, global corporations, charities and foundations,on Wednesday offered some tips for both active philanthropists already engaged in giving to charities overseas and other Americans interested in becoming first-time donors.

“If donating more is going to be one of your New Year's resolutions, our message is that you need to do your homework, use the tools provided by CAFAmerica and other organizations, and think about how to give in a way that will achieve a maximum impact, rather than scattering you contributions thinly on several fronts," CAFAmerica chief executive Susan Saxon-Harrold, said in a statement.

CAFAmerica outlined the following recommendations for those who plan to either start giving in 2011 or to increase their donations:

  1. Focus on a charity that makes sense for you. Charities have an obligation to provide detailed information to interested donors. Never give to a charity you know nothing about. You may wish to pick a charity or an initiative in one field of interest and in one geographic area and then stick to it.
  2. Consider giving more to fewer charities. If you do give to many nonprofit organizations, consider donating larger sums to fewer groups. In the world of small- and medium-size charities, a $1,000 donation to one charity may achieve a much bigger impact than $100 given to each of 10 different ones. It is generally true that, for those who can afford to do so, a few large gifts will generate a bigger impact than several small gifts.
  3. Do your homework and donate safely. There is no substitute for due diligence when it comes to international charitable giving. CAFAmerica asks charities: How long has the organization been working? What risks are associated with giving to a specific country? Can the charity’s mission be independently verified?
  4. Talk to friends, family and neighbors, and use the Internet to learn more about a charity or issue that interests you. Ask the charity about its achievements, what has failed and how it is financed. If it is being transparent, it will tell you. If you're interested in making a major donation to a charity or for an initiative in a country, then there is no substitute for seeing the work in action. So consider making a visit or a country tour to find out what you really would like to support.
  5. Focus on sustainability, not "one shot" giving.If you are considering a larger donation, it's important to think about what happens after your money is spent by a foreign charity. Do the services offered decline?  Do programs get dismantled?  This is why "sustainability" is increasingly an important issue for donors who don't want to see their gift go to waste. Think about the long term by asking the charity how it spent your gift and what was achieved by the gift.
  6. Review your giving regularly. Look back over the past year and ask the tough questions: Did you fulfill your goals for cross-border giving? Do you need to make changes? Do you need more help in establishing your goals? If so, what worked and what will you change for next year? It's important to avoid the "check off the box" syndrome of international charitable giving, where you simply go back each holiday season to the same charities and write them the same check as the previous year.

Charities Aid Foundation America was founded in 1992, and is a member organization of the United Kingdom based Charities Aid Foundation international network of offices. It is dedicated to expanding borderless charitable giving by providing guidance and international grant making solutions for donors and charities. Together with its UK subsidiary for dual US/UK taxpayers, the CAF American Donor Fund, CAFAmerica makes over $40 million in grants to charities in 76 countries around the world.

CAFAmerica provides a tool that allows users to search some 1,000 charities by nation, region, focus and other key factors. It also allows donors to select a target for giving from more than 100,000 charities around the works, and opt to make donations to the eligible organization of their choice.

See AdvisorOne's Outlook 2011 calendar to find the publishing dates for, and links to, other categories in the Outlook series.